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Friday, 14 January, 2000, 22:21 GMT
Analysis: Putin's message to the world

Soldier Russia is also showing a "firm fist" in Chechnya


By Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

Vladimir Putin has a burning ambition: to become Russia's president. He is clearly in a strong position.

He received the blessing of Boris Yeltsin, before he retired on 31 December.



He [Putin] is showing his people that he - and therefore Russia - will not be pushed around by the West.
He is backed by a significant number of deputies in the new parliament. And, as prime minister, and therefore, acting president in the run-up to the election on 26 March, he is in the driving seat.

Everything that he does between now and then will have the added intention of boosting his chances of election. The document on the concept of Russian national security is no exception.

'Firm fist'

What has attracted Russians to Mr Putin above all is that he has shown - by the force of the military operation in Chechnya - that he represents the strong leader they have wanted for a long time.


nuclear missile Russia still has a significant nuclear arsenal
Many Russians believe that history has shown that the only way to govern a country as huge as Russia is for its leader to have a "firm fist".

By publishing such a document as the national security concept, Mr Putin is not only sending out a message to the West that Russia is serious about defending its interests, but also he is showing his people that he - and therefore Russia - will not be pushed around by the West.

Mr Putin is also being opportunistic. The draft of the document was first published in November last year.

It was approved by the security council, which meant that, as prime minister, Mr Putin played a part in its writing. But its publication after Mr Yeltsin's retirement marks it down now as Mr Putin's doctrine. And Russia's "firm fist" will be glad to take the credit.

Large nuclear arsenal

The part of the new concept which has caused the biggest stir in the West is the subtle shift in Russia's policy on use of nuclear weapons.

But changing the wording concerning when Russia would be prepared to use nuclear weapons from the 1997 version of "in case of a threat to the very existence of the Russian Federation" to "to repel armed aggression if all other means of resolving a crisis have been exhausted" is not a threat to the West.


Putin Vladimir Putin: Reputation as strongman
It is merely a statement recognising the reality of the situation that the ultimate weapon in the Russian arsenal is the nuclear one, and that if anyone should even consider taking advantage of the fact that Russia's conventional weaponry is now comparatively weak, they should think again.

Nothing makes the West sit up and take notice of Russia more than an open reminder that it has a large nuclear arsenal.

In the immediate post-Cold War era, the feeling in the West was that, with the collapse of the Communist system and the Soviet Union, the world which had been dominated by two superpowers, the USA and the USSR, was over.

The new Russia, which, under President Boris Yeltsin was supposedly striving to become a democratic state, wanted co-operation, not confrontation, with the West.

The more conciliatory foreign policy was personified by the Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev.

But if Russia was being more conciliatory towards the West, it was with the idea that the West would be more prepared to give a friendly Russia the help it needed to re-build its bankrupt economy.

This help simply did not materialise in the way Russia had hoped.



It was no more than a reminder to the West that Russia [has] a significant nuclear arsenal, and that if the West wanted to base its thinking on a uni-polar world revolving around Washington then it must think again
As it became increasingly clear to the Kremlin that this was the case, questions were raised as to whether the West was interested in working with Russia, or whether it wanted to dominate it. There was a definite cooling in relations between Moscow and the West.

In his last foreign trip as Russian President, Mr Yeltsin caused a stir when he announced in Beijing that the West must remember that Russia had nuclear weapons.

This was interpreted in some hawkish circles in the West as a threat.

In fact, it was no more than a reminder to the West that Russia - like China - is a large country, with a significant nuclear arsenal, and that if the West wanted to base its thinking on a uni-polar world revolving around Washington then it must think again.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Russia lowers nuclear threshold
14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: Russia faces realities of war
01 Jan 00 |  Europe
Vladimir Putin: Spy turned politician
30 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: The fragile relationship
11 Jan 00 |  Europe
Putin: Russia must be great again
20 Aug 99 |  Americas
Russia critical of US missile plan
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
New arms control treaty for Europe

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